Of trees and festivals

The last of the quaking aspen leaves have fallen in the night, I notice with a pang. Their naked trunks shine pale in the morning sun where they stand, the four of them, at the edge of the marshy corner of the field. It’s like losing a shortwave radio: how now will I eavesdrop on the murmur and agitation of the larger world? Then this morning I hear that the emerald ash borer is now just two counties away, and I am stricken again.

But what a fossil I am, speaking of shortwave radios in the age of the World-Wide Web! The latest edition of the Festival of the Trees at the Brazilian Blog do Árvores Vivas (Living Trees Blog) reminds us of the possiblities for communication across human language barriers — it’s a fully bilingual edition — as well as, potentially, between humans and trees, if we pay careful enough attention. Go visit.

Also, note that the next edition of the festival one month from now will appear right here at Via Negativa. Send tree-related links to bontasaurus [at] yahoo [dot] com with “Festival of the Trees” in the subject line — see here for how to participate.

We seem to have run out of willing hosts for future editions, however, and not too many people send in links anymore, either, so perhaps this will be the last edition. No sense in beating a dead horse (or a live one, for that matter, but I digress). The trouble with blog carnivals, it seems, is that everyone wants to be linked to, but few remember to return the favor, and as the carnival ages, it loses that shiny newness essential to arousing murmurs and agitation on the Web. First people stop linking to it, and then they stop participating altogether.

But maybe I’m wrong, and we’re just in a temporary lull. If you’d like to keep the Festival of the Trees going, please consider volunteering to host, or even easier — and just as important — spreading the word in the most obvious ways possible: by linking to it, blogging about it, Twittering about it, or posting the link to the latest edition on Facebook (things I don’t always remember to do myself). Nothing lasts forever, but if in fact you’d like this unique, tree- and forest-centered blog carnival to continue, you’ll have to start showing it some love. Do it for the trees! Because I am not the Lorax, I am the old Once-ler. And like the Once-ler, I say,

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Secrets of the trees

Should secret places be shared or keep hidden? What might they teach us about our own, secret connections with natural places and the trees that help define them? These are some of the questions raised at the latest edition of the Festival of the Trees, “Hidden Among the Trees,” now live at Arboreality.

This is Jade’s fourth time hosting the blog carnival, and I think she really raises the bar in terms of organization, writing, and of course the number and variety of links — which isn’t to say she doesn’t also include plenty of lighter material: dinosaur theme park photos, jungle bridges in India woven from living tree roots, and a hollow chestnut in Portugal “giving birth” to ten people. Go visit!

oak leaf in water

Old trees, new ornaments

discarded Christmas treesFestival of the Trees #31, the New Year’s 2009 edition, is worth an extended visit at Rock Paper Lizard. As Hugh says, ’tis the season to take down the Christmas tree — something we just got around to doing this morning up at my parents’ house. Dad kindly undecorated the tree, leaving me with the simpler task of carrying it outside.

If you feed wild birds, discarded Christmas trees make very useful shelters from hawks and inclement weather. I nestled this year’s tree among the skeletons of previous Christmases, four of them, in varying stages of decomposition. Even without the needles, thin, tangled coats of weeds and grasses still offer some protection. The Christmas tree is truly a gift that goes on giving. When I came back with my camera to snap the above picture less than five minutes later, a half-dozen white-throated sparrows flew out. No sooner had it been stripped of the usual myriad of fake bird ornaments than the real thing moved in.


I’ve just been reading about TreeYoga. I got all excited at first, but it turned out that this was really boring old PeopleYoga — the trees are merely used for a form of non-lethal hanging.

As in the yoga posture (asana) of the Tree Pose (Vrksasana), TreeYoga beckons us to reflect upon a core principle of yoga — balance. Like trees, yogis can now root themselves into the earth and extend gloriously up to the sky. There is great beauty and playfulness in the flowering shapes of yogis sprouting from trees.

If the accompanying photos are any indication, the dangling yogis do indeed resemble some kind of strange fruit. The official TreeYoga website refers to trees as “yoga partners,” which strikes me as presumptuous in the same way I find tree-hugging presumptuous: how do we know the trees really want to be hugged or enlisted as partners?

Still, people have been meditating in or under trees for a very long time, and as I’ve written here in the past, many Central Pennsylvanians practice an annual tree-based meditative activity that probably resembles quite closely the paleolithic, ancestral form of meditation. And because they spend such long hours up there, staying as still as they can, they’re rewarded with all sorts of great wildlife sightings. One of the hunters on our property saw a bobcat from her tree stand this year; another saw a fisher. There were several red fox sightings, which surprised us a little because we haven’t seen any in two or three years, and had assumed they’d all been killed or driven off by the coyotes. And quite regularly of course the hunters draw the attention of small flocks of winter birds. I can only imagine a chickadee’s reaction if it saw a human hanging upside-down, chickadee-fashion, with the help of a TreeYoga swing.

Festival of the Trees 29: Bring out your dead

Sky Lake WMA, Mississippi

Welcome to the Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead edition of the Festival of the Trees! No forest is more full of the dead — or more teeming with life — than an old-growth forest, and what could be spookier than a swamp? So for illustrations this time I’m using some photos my brother Mark Bonta took in his adopted state of Mississippi last spring, on a visit to the Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area. It’s not a so-called virgin or primary forest, since some trees were cut there a century ago, but the biggest and oldest trees were left because they were hollow. Mark says the preserve contains hundreds of giant baldcypress trees with a typical diameter at breast height of 10 feet, as well as the state — and possibly national — champion baldcypress, which is considerably larger than the “average” specimens in these pictures. The best time to visit is in fall, when woods are no longer flooded. Continue reading “Festival of the Trees 29: Bring out your dead”